By Mike Banks Valentine (c) Nov. 16, 2004
The 2004 “World of Search” conference at the Las Vegas Convention Center began Tuesday, November 15, with a short welcome and conference kudos and credits from WebMasterWorld.com (WMW) head Brett Tabke. A first session, titled “Big Site Promotion” provided a glimpse into search engine gambits employed by the SE strategists for the big boys at Autobytel.com (Joe Morin of Boost Search Marketing), About.com (Marshall Simmonds, Primedia Search Director) and IBM (Bill Hunt of GlobalStrategies.com).
“Big Site Promotion” turned out to be a vindication of the standard SEO rallying cry, “Content and relevancy are King!” Both Simmonds (About.com) and Morin (Autobytel.com) told tales of basic SEO issues. Both work in a change-resistant corporate culture where adoption is slow and “proof of concept” is often necessary before multiple division heads will sign-off. Where multiple division heads must agree to page templates changes, even when those changes are well recognized necessities of SEO.
Other issues pointed to were on-page javascrïpt and inline CSS as barriers to search engine robots crawling thousands of pages. An extreme example was given of a corporate home page that ran to 21 printed pages of jscript and CSS – before any visible page text was finally reached! Reference those javascrïpt and CSS files offpage folks!
In the same session, we heard from IBM SEO Bill Hunt with a story of finding and removing rogue robots.txt files that kept SE spiders out of literally thousands of pages. Quizzing audience members on the issue he got only a sprinkling of upraised hands when he asked how many thought that problem might be significant.
Hunt warned them that they’d better take it seriously when pages are not being indexed and look for unknown robots.txt files that may be found lurking on client servers of monstrous corporate sites. He noted that the starting point for large site SEO is often the bare essentials (the standard Title, Heading and Metadata) on global templates, followed by resolving “barriers to crawling” like dynamic URL’s, cookies and session ID’s in visible URL’s through URL rewrites.
The after lunch “SEO Super Session” served mostly to frighten and anger any honest and ethical SEO’s when a panel discussion exposed the so-called “Black Hat” SEO techniques as common, acceptable and routine for at least one panelist and some audience members, who shared a laugh over illicit ranking techniques. Even though one panelist pointed out the presence of Google’s Matt Cutts in the back of the room, the panelist grinned through his “do what works” justification for even more black hat techniques and said, to more laughs, “You’re not a true SEO until you’ve been banned at least once!”
I beg to differ on that point and hope the friendly chuckles passed around that session aren’t a true reflection of the majority of this audience so accepting of underhanded black hat trickery. I literally got physically ill over the spamming techniques and cloaking skullduggery so easily accepted in the name of “client advocacy” by many SEO’s. Panelist members mentioned that they’d been surprised at the number of people at SEO conferences who refuse to offer a name and occupation when greeted because they don’t want to be identified as one of those bad boy SEO’s. I’m proud of my occupation and refuse to use questionable “algo-busting” trickery readily acccepted with a wink by some.
The latest widespread dirty trick is done using an IP delivery ruse which forwards recognized search engine spiders to a higher ranked site through a “301 page moved”, inheriting the forwarded site’s PageRank, while showing other visitors the true pages. Although I suppose I’ll be seen as a naive and gullible-SEO-prude opposed to using “brute force” techniques to manipulate the search engines, I’ll accept the inevitable ribbing and sleep well at night.
An audience member wondered out loud why Google hasn’t done something to correct this latest underhanded IP delivery technique. Panelists had no answer, but suggested attendees corner search engine representatives present from Google (Matt Cutts) and Yahoo (Tim Mayer) to see what they had to say on the subject.
Though I’ve lost clients to those willing to employ rotten egg techniques that attract visitors like maggots, I don’t have to return later and clean up the mess left by the buzzing bugs crawling over the stench left when techniques die suddenly, are discovered and banned. I’ve earned substantial monëy doing the cleanup for previous, banned SEO’s. I hated that work and the extensive cleanup of rotting doorway pages, stinky cloaked pages and endless putrid piles of deteriorating mirror sites.
I just this week lost a job to a black hat SEO team. The work I bid on and lost was from a substantial company seeking to cover up bad press that is ranking in top spots, right below their salës site. The clear honest solution is to displace those bad press results with high ranking and legitïmate press releases, FAQ’s, glossary of terms and relevant contextual sites that rank above them. I will, in the future, refuse the inevitable job of cleaning up the mess left by the black hat wïnner of that contract.
Though more sessions capped the first day agenda, none could hold my attention after a stomach turning black hat technique discussion – I had to flee to my hotel room to my illness in private. Damn! I hope some good announcements or innovative ideas emerge from days two and three of the “WebMaster World of Search #7” so I can get over that upset stomach brought on by the bad boys of search. I know there will always be those willing to cheat, lie and steal as long as there is monëy to be made. I also know I won’t be one of them.
About The Author
Mike Banks Valentine practices ethical SEO. Contact Mike at: SEOptimism.com. This article is available online at RealitySEO.com with links to resources. You may use it on your site, blog or newsletter if you maintain this resource box and make links live hyperlinks.
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